Another hurdle overcome in cruising’s long return to operations. Royal Caribbean Tuesday became the first cruise line approved by the CDC for a test sailing in U.S. waters.
Social media was abuzz late Tuesday as Michael Bayley, CEO of Royal Caribbean International, posted the good news on Facebook.
“After 15 months and so much work by so many during very challenging times. To all our colleagues, loyal guests and supporters all over the world I am proud and pleased to share some bright and wonderful news ! Boom ! Onwards and upwards team !” he wrote.
His post included an image of a memo to him from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services entitled: ACCEPTANCE OF PORT AGREEMENTS AND PROVISIONAL ACCEPTANCE OF REQUEST TO CONDUCT A SIMULATED VOYAGE.
The memo approves the cruise line’s “request to conduct a simulated voyage on June 20-22 on board the M/V Freedom of the Seas pursuant to the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.”
As Open Jaw has reported, the CDC in recent weeks opened up two paths for cruise lines to resume sailing. The new path involved sailing with nearly 100 per cent fully vaccinated crew and guests.
The other, for ships that would not sail with fully vaccinated crew and guests, was to fulfill the CSO’s original “test” or “simulated” sailings for the CDC to evaluate and certify a ship’s practices and protocols to protect crew, pax, and residents at ports of call from the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
When Freedom of the Seas undertakes its industry-first simulated sailing, it will have volunteer pax on board. Those volunteers must be 18 and older but they are not required to be vaccinated. They will have to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing at several points before, during and after the 2-day cruise.
Simulated sailings and certifications have to be done ship by ship, but for cruise lines that focus on families with large numbers of young people who cannot yet be vaccinated, it’s the only option.
As some industry observers have noted, some cruise lines – including Royal Caribbean – may choose to take both routes, offering both vaccinated and not-fully vaccinated ships and cruises.